Dutch term – Gezel

Etching of a carpenter at work

A gezel is a journeyman, a craftsman who had already finished basic training but had not passed his master's exam yet and had not been admitted to the guild. The term is also used to indicate someone who worked for a boss rather than having their own shop, so a gezel doesn't mean the person is young. You can find the word gezel used as a suffix … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Doodgraver


The term doodgraver literally means 'dead digger.' It is the person who digs the graves for the dead. In larger towns, this was a full-time occupation. In small towns, the church sometimes hired poor people to dig the graves, making them work for their allowance. A grave digger was not only supposed to dig the graves but also to collect any … [Read more...]

Source – Staten van Landverhuizers

Departure of an emigrant ship

In the 1840s, when religious tensions were high and crops were failing, many people left the Netherlands to start a new life in America. The national government wanted to know what was going on. Since 1848, they required each province to keep lists of emigrants, the "Staten van Landverhuizers" [tables of emigrants]. Between 1831 and 1847, … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Schepenbank

Aldermen's hall, Amsterdam, Willem Kok, J. de Jongh, 1793

The schepenbank is the bench of aldermen, or the aldermen's court. The schepenen were the officials who set on the bench. The schepenbank would serve as the magistrate and as a court of law. The term Schepenbank was not used in all regions. Other terms include nedergerecht (Friesland) or vierschaar (Zeeland). Schepenbanken with higher … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Kaart


A kaart is a map or a card. In the 17th century, Amsterdam was the map making capital of the world so there are some gorgeous maps waiting for you to see where your ancestors lived. For example, check the Blaeu Atlas at the Erfgoed Leiden website or read about the the facsimile edition of the City Atlas of Frederik de Wit. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Fiets

Brush salesman on bike

As the Tour de France starts in the Netherlands this week, this is a good time to learn the meaning of a quintessentially Dutch word: fiets (bicycle). Introduction of bikes Fietsen were introduced in the Netherlands in the last part of the 19th century. They were quickly adopted and became the most popular mode of transportation. Fietsen were not … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Gevangenis

Dome prison in Breda

A gevangenis is a prison. The modern prison system was introduced in 1811. Many people went to jail, often for petty crimes. Prison records can tell you if any of your ancestors ever went to jail. Read more about prison records. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Wasvrouw

Laundress, by Gesina ter Borch, about 1652.

A wasvrouw was a laundress. It was an occupation for poor women, who were usually single or widowed. … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Meerderjarig

couple appearing in court

Meerderjarig means 'of age,' having reached the age of majority. What the age of majority was, depends on the time and place. Youngsters could also be declared to be of age by the court, usually with consent of the parents or guardians. Age of majority in the Netherlands Period Age of majority Before 1811 Depends on the region, … [Read more...]

Dutch term – Gewaarmerkte kopie

Certified copy of death record of Catharina Flooren

A gewaarmerkte kopie is a certified copy. When ordering a record, like your own birth record, you may be asked if you want a regular copy or a certified copy. Certified copies will be printed on special paper and will have a seal by the municipality guaranteeing authenticity. For genealogical purposes, a regular photocopy will suffice. In fact, … [Read more...]